Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 10 - Evidence - Meeting of December 13, 2010


OTTAWA, Monday, December 13, 2010

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 4 p.m. to examine and report on the national security and defence policies of Canada (Topic: Arctic sovereignty and security).

Senator Pamela Wallin (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: This is a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for December 13, 2010. We have two witnesses today. We are a little pressed for time because the chamber is in special session tonight at 6 p.m.

We will begin with two witnesses on the subject of Arctic sovereignty and security, and then we will have a brief in camera meeting to consider our report on the proposed name change of the Maritime Command.

Our first witness today is appearing by video conference from Whitehorse, Yukon. He is The Honourable Dennis Fentie, Premier of Yukon and host this year of the Northern Premiers' Forum. He has been a member of the legislative assembly, an MLA, for Watson Lake since 1996 and the premier since 2002. His work background is in logging, tourism, mining, trucking and fuel distribution — and he is also pleasant company at dinner. I was in the Yukon with Senator Lang, and we all met and had a wonderful evening.

Do you have an opening statement that you would like to read first? If so, please go ahead.

Hon. Dennis Fentie, Premier of Yukon: Yes. It will be concise and as expeditious as possible.

I would like to begin by expressing my thanks and appreciation on behalf of the North for this opportunity to be a witness before the committee on this important issue. I am sure we all understand that the North, the three territories, comprise about 40 per cent of Canada's land mass and thousands of kilometres of coastline in conjunction with other jurisdictions such as the State of Alaska. It is also a treasure trove of natural resources and has the potential for great contribution to the nation.

I also want to pay, in particular, a special tribute to Prime Minister Harper and his government for focusing attention on the North through this initiative. It has been a long time since we have experienced this kind of attention by our national government. The last example that I can think of was under Prime Minister Diefenbaker's focus on the North, which resulted in the building of the Dempster Highway.

I think it is fair to say that the North has long played an important role in helping Canada assert its sovereignty. I think the best way to sum that up, although there are examples of how that is rooted in history and international law and the presence of the Inuit and First Nations people in the North, Arctic sovereignty is indeed asserted through our Northern people and our communities. That is our front line.

Though we have examples in the past of how Canada has involved the North in security and sovereignty — I think of the early warning system and the role we play in NORAD today — we are indeed facing new challenges with the ever- changing environmental and global situation, the demands for energy and mineral resources and the transportation networks that could soon be shipping through the Arctic passage, or the Northwest Passage. Of course, the increasing military interest with the U.S. and the security concerns post-9/11 and other examples are bringing even more interest and pressure to bear in Northern Canada.

The first point I would like to make is an obvious one. Part of Arctic sovereignty and security must include healthy, sustainable communities maintaining that front-line footprint in the North. They are a definite contributor to Arctic sovereignty and security. However, so too is the investment in infrastructure, which is critical. Investing in transportation infrastructure, energy infrastructure and communication infrastructure, investing in tidewater and deep-sea ports, for example, all combine to contribute to the nation's priority issue of security and sovereignty in the North.

Let us remember also that we should enhance such things as our Canadian Rangers, along with our army and air cadets. These are fine examples of others that can contribute to this important initiative. Part of that exists already in the North and the Yukon, and it is important that we ensure that the rangers and our cadet corps continue to be involved.

It is important also to invest in the capacity of Northern peoples, which will make a further contribution to Arctic sovereignty and security. Much of that is built into the three territories' pan-Northern vision, which we have presented to Prime Minister Harper's government and are pleased to say that we are seeing some of that input surfacing in this overall national vision for the North.

We also want to welcome the fact that an Arctic foreign policy includes our role and involvement in such things as the Arctic Council and the Northern Forum, which, as the chair pointed out, we will be co-hosting. These are areas that can further contribute to Canada's interests.

Of course, one of our most obvious challenges is the establishment of search and rescue, where we have a much more immediate response. We have established, on the ground here in the North, that important facet contributing to security.

I know you have questions. Once again, thank you for this opportunity. I want to close by saying that this federal initiative, the Arctic sovereignty and security strategy, is all about nation-building. Nation-building, from the North's perspective, includes a federation from sea to sea to sea.

Senator Dallaire: Premier, you are speaking for the Yukon, of course, but you also indicated your other two colleagues. With respect to the population in the North, apart from the Aboriginal communities that we know are exploding in population, are there initiatives to move more people to the North, attract people who are not necessarily of European background? Is it your plan to see that population increase as you indicated, the communities being one of the pillars of our sovereignty in the North and the effectiveness of our sovereignty in that area?

Mr. Fentie: Yes. Senator Dallaire, thank you for the question. I want to begin by qualifying that.

Although I am here representing the three territories in the North, I certainly do not speak for Premier Roland and Premier Aariak. They may have some views also. I am here to represent the North in general.

As far as the growing population is concerned, it is true that we have a large percentage of Aboriginal people in our population. It is much more prevalent in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. It is a smaller percentage in the Yukon. Population growth is happening today in the North. It is being driven by the need to build capacity. We need professionals and medical people. We need teachers, engineers and other skilled people to complement what we are doing in the North because we are developing and growing. We have a growing population, and it is quite diverse.

Another example is that we have part of the nominee program that the nation has proceeded with, so we do have other than Europeans coming to the North. That would include investment from China, people from the Philippines and so on. There are many initiatives and a major effort to grow our population, contribute to building healthy, sustainable communities and meet the capacity challenges that we have.

Senator Dallaire: To be specific, if I may, what is the federal government's role in assisting to move a more significant population into the northern regions? As an example, in your region, we have seen some actions with the Aboriginal people and that has not necessarily always been positive. In the 1930s, we saw that in Abitibi, in the northwest of Quebec, where they got involved with the provincial government.

Is there a specific plan of action to move more of a population base, with all the different elements of a population, demographics of a population, into the northern region and in particular into the Yukon?

Mr. Fentie: I am not sure if you are speaking about immigration or initiatives within the major disciplines required in the North, so I am a little unclear about your question. However, I can point to the fact that, at this stage, the initiatives are centred on bringing people in from offshore, for example, through the nominee programs. That does involve immigration. It includes investment in priority infrastructure, such as energy, housing and other forms of infrastructure. It includes arrangements with us in the area of labour market and training, development and investment in education.

It includes, by the way, a significant focus on implementing the treaties and the land claims agreements, because that is part of creating certainty that will help you attract people to the North. With the brief amount of time, though I could provide many more details, that is the best I can do on short notice.

Senator Lang: Just so that Senator Dallaire and other members on the committee know, the unemployment rate in the Yukon is the lowest in the country. It is 4.5 per cent. There is a nominee program there that has been sponsored through the Government of Canada. We have over 400 people who have come from other parts of world to take up some of the employment opportunities there. It shows how well things are going up in our part of the world.

I would like your comments on a couple of areas. One has to do with sovereignty, and that is the boundary between the Yukon and Alaska. As you know, there is an outstanding boundary dispute between the U.S. and Canada under negotiation at present. Perhaps you could tell us the importance of those negotiations and what it means to Canada and specifically to the Yukon?

Mr. Fentie: The negotiations with the Americans on the boundary is essential in determining our sovereignty as we want to establish it, especially offshore, and it includes the issue of tremendous possibilities in resource, as well as other cultural elements, especially in fisheries and so on. In establishing that boundary and dividing Canada's waters, in this case Alaska and American waters, to give us a much better and clearer positioning internationally is critical. We are encouraged by the discussions to date but, having said that, we know it has been a long-standing issue. I am pleased to say that Prime Minister Harper's government also allows input from the Yukon in matters such as this, as I know they allow input from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in matters in their particular area offshore.

Senator Lang: I would like to move to another area, and it is the question of the search and rescue, SAR, that you mentioned earlier. As you know, the SAR organization is located in the southern part of Canada and is a long way away from where any mishap or disaster may occur. Subsequently, the issue has come up repeatedly of whether or not such a responsibility should be centred more in the North than in the South. Perhaps you can expand further on that as well.

Mr. Fentie: When considering what is happening in today's North and as we look into the future what all this means is that establishing a SAR centre or centres across the North will be very important. For example, with development and the amount of traffic, considering that in many cases the only mode of transportation from A to B anywhere in the Territories, especially outside the Yukon, is by air, it is critical that SAR is able to respond as quickly as possible should a mishap take place.

With the situation developing in the Northwest Passage and all that goes with that, establishing SAR centres across the North is critical. However, it also clearly represents that the nation, and Canada, is putting its footprint on the ground in the North by committing to these types of initiatives and putting these types of centres in Northern Canada. When you consider that Comox, British Columbia, is the point of contact today, it would make quite a difference if the point of contact were Inuvik or Whitehorse or Iqaluit for SAR in Canada.

Senator Lang: I would like to go back to the rangers and the cadets, both the army and air force cadets, and what is available in the North. Perhaps you could expand further on that, its importance to our communities and the importance of the expansion of those particular programs.

Mr. Fentie: Beyond the visible and optical benefits from having these important groups established in the North and in the Yukon, we have to recognize the role they can play, even in SAR, for example, or in better on-the-ground monitoring and what is happening in Northern Canada. We have to recognize and remember that we are a land base of vast distances, with a small population and limited footprint on that vast land base. The role that the Canadian Rangers and the cadets can play in enhancing them and letting them grow into what is transpiring in the North and what is ahead of us is as important as establishing those centres for SAR. We have something on the ground today that if appropriately enhanced and increased in terms of their abilities could fill a void and a gap in many areas on the ground in today's Yukon and in today's North.

Senator Patterson: Premier Fentie, I want to take a quick moment to congratulate you on bringing the three territorial premiers together to great effect. You were the lead on that initiative, and it has had great benefits to the three Northern territories. I am happy that we have you presenting today.

I would like to follow up on Senator Lang's comments about search and rescue and your observation that bases could be relocated in the North. Would you see a role for the private aviation industry in the North? We know that the Canadian Air Force is dealing with aged aircraft right now. Their Buffalo aircraft based in Comox were really due to retire in 2010, and I believe they are on life-support still.

Do you think that the northern aviation industry might be able to provide equipment and infrastructure support for SAR in the North?

Mr. Fentie: That is a fair and a good question. First, some of the greatest experience in aviation in the North is in the private sector. There is no doubt about that. If you also use the example of medevacs, the private sector already does that. It is not a large leap to go from where we are already today in the private aviation sector in the North into a role in search and rescue. In many cases, for example, when a plane has been lost or has not reached its destination, private- sector aviators and those who have planes who know the country and the flight paths are used from time to time. It is not a big stretch to incorporate a model that may include the private sector in the North when it comes to SAR.

Senator Patterson: As we look at sovereignty in the North, I am sure you would agree that communications is an important aspect for Canada to maintain and enhance its sovereignty in the North. As we look at further military initiatives in Northern Canada and the expansion of the military presence — the plans for a naval refuelling facility in Nanisivik, Nunavut, and a training base in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for example — do you see potential for working with the military to improve communications, not just for the military but also for territorial governments and communities? Could you tell us a bit about the progress you are making on broadband and Internet capacity in the Yukon and how that might be expanded with partners?

Mr. Fentie: I did touch on the issue of communication as an essential item of Arctic security and sovereignty. Let me expand on that. Beyond PolarSat, RADARSAT and so forth, there is great opportunity to create a critical mass with the private sector and the military in terms of communications infrastructure.

For example, in today's Yukon, with a good partnership with our federal government, with Northwestel Inc. — the company of record here that provides areas of communication — and the Yukon government, we have invested heavily in infrastructure that has now resulted in high-speed internet for all Yukon communities. However, I think there is a void here that we should also recognize, and that is that we do not have a closed loop. Failures of the system or the infrastructure can result in no communications from time to time. We are considering how we might, on an east-west basis north of 60, interconnect and make our communications systems more effective and efficient. It also includes the Alaskans and linking the loop down the Pacific seaboard so that, regardless of what happens on any end of this loop, communications are still open. That is an essential question to be resolved when you look at Arctic security and sovereignty and how communications will affect that.

Senator Pépin: Mr. Premier, in your view, are the Canadian Rangers adequately trained and equipped to deal with security situations in the Arctic? If not, what do they need to be able to respond adequately?

Mr. Fentie: The status of our rangers today, for the duties that they perform, is very adequate. These are people who are more than prepared to enhance their performance through training, better and improved equipment and so forth to be able to play an even more enhanced and effective role.

When you consider the vast distances, the many river systems and the way people are spread out across this vast land of ours in the North, the rangers, along with other elements of SAR, can play a more effective and enhanced role. It would not take much investment or training to move the rangers upward toward a more important and meaningful role in certain areas out in our land base.

Senator Day: It would be helpful for us to understand, Mr. Premier, the type of planning you are doing for potential security challenges. How frequently are you meeting with the different government departments? What kind of stockpile of equipment do you have to handle emergencies, and what do you see as the major challenges?

I am a long way from the Yukon where I live in New Brunswick, but we have many similar challenges in terms of potential mining disasters. You also have a long coastline and a lot of tourism. How are you doing in terms of planning for that kind of potential challenge?

Mr. Fentie: We must recognize two particular tracks. First, in many areas, the Yukon has devolved, and that devolution means responsibility is now vested with the Yukon government. When it comes to mining, for example, we have established a mine rescue and safety program and equipment and elements, and there is an overall plan. We have taken on firefighting in the summer months in the fire season, another essential area critical to public safety in the Yukon. That is totally within our area of responsibility now.

Senator Day: Those are forest fires?

Mr. Fentie: Yes, we fight our own forest fires.

When it comes to air traffic, by working with Transport Canada, we have dramatically enhanced security at the Whitehorse International Airport. Of course, when we cross our border with the State of Alaska, we all recognize that the Americans have become much more rigid and strident in how they deal with border crossings. We have come a long way, but in the context of Arctic security and sovereignty, I am sure much more can be done.

Senator Day: Are there any gaps that you would like to point out for us as a committee as we look into this? Are there any challenging areas for which you feel you could get more support?

Mr. Fentie: There is an umbrella that we should look at as to where the gaps exist in the immediate and into the mid- term. It has to do with climate change, and it is the issue of adaptation. We must be better at adapting to the impacts that we are experiencing in the North, such as melting permafrost, evasive species, the opening up of the Northwest Passage and the melting of Arctic ice. These are areas that we continue to work on and, in all likelihood, could find more ways of enhancing our ability to close those gaps.

Here is a great example that is international in nature. Our relationship with the Americans has resulted in millions of dollars invested in the North Alaska Highway, Haines Road into Haines, Alaska, and the South Klondike Highway into Skagway, Alaska. That gives decent highway access all the way from the lower 48 states to the State of Alaska. It gives us access to tidewater, both at Haines and Skagway, and that is all American money, by the good graces of the federal government in Washington and the support we have received from the State of Alaska. It is an example of an international arrangement that contributes to Canada's Arctic security and sovereignty, and it is investment in transportation infrastructure, bridges and highways.

The Chair: I have a couple of follow-up questions on things that were noted before. You talked about RADARSAT and PolarSat. By that, I take it you mean that you are working quite cooperatively with National Defence, DND. Are there actual civilian benefits on the ground?

Mr. Fentie: My apologies; I cannot give you a concrete example of civilian benefit. Yes, we are working closely and cooperatively. It is our belief that this will further enhance our abilities and capacity in communication.

The Chair: I have a follow up to Senator Day's question because we are looking at this from all three perspectives. What do you see as being the biggest security threat? We have taken and heard testimony that the Russians are coming again, or perhaps it will be smuggling, or maybe it is climate change, or maybe it is failed negotiations on borders with other Arctic nations.

What do you see as the biggest security threat in the North?

Mr. Fentie: That is a difficult question because there are multiple areas that could be or are now possible threats. It is hard to prioritize and put those in categories in an order that would create the biggest security threat.

The best way for me to respond to that is with the issue of the Beaufort Sea and offshore. We touched on the negotiations that are taking place with the boundary. That is one. The other part of that is recognizing that a lack of infrastructure in many areas could become a serious matter to Canada further establishing and enhancing its sovereignty in the North. The front line in the North, when it comes to security and sovereignty, happens to be northern people and their communities.

There is a big basket here, but if I was to pick one, it certainly would be the offshore issue and the Beaufort issue.

The Chair: Could you give us another 30 seconds on that?

Mr. Fentie: On the Beaufort and the offshore issues?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr. Fentie: There is a lot of pressure to bear in that area. You mentioned the Russians. Thus far, they have taken the step to drop the flag somewhere on the seabed, but we all know what is coming. The global demands for energy, for example, will set this scenario up without a doubt. There is competition between us and the Americans for those resources offshore.

Our coastline, as I said, is thousands of kilometres long. What we do to establish our security and our sovereignty out to that boundary point where the international waters start is critical. The pressure being brought bear is ever increasing. When you couple that with the need for cultural and traditional use and occupancy, if you will, this is a pressing issue, and I can see it is a priority issue for the nation.

The Chair: Thank you. That was most helpful.

Senator Dallaire: In 1987, a significant white paper under Perrin Beatty called for 1,000 troops to be moved into the North and the building of a big base at Arctic Bay at that time and even the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines to handle the northern region and the Arctic region. That was all scrapped.

Do you feel that we have lost time in relation to the deployment capabilities of the forces to reinforce our sovereignty in that area? Should we maybe look at making an alliance with the Russians instead of considering them as a sort of old Cold War opponent?

Mr. Fentie: First, let us consider your point about lost time. Governments make decisions and the results of those decisions are sometimes are long lasting. The important issue on that matter is to look forward. I think we are heading in the right direction, senator, with this overall vision of Arctic security and sovereignty. What happened in 1987 certainly may have an effect and impact today in 2010, but we must be conscious of paying close attention to what is beyond 2010.

Second, on the matter of the Russians, the Yukon has now become more and more a member of the global community. Collaboration — and, in many areas I guess the term is ``diplomacy'' — and diplomacy has always been an effective tool. When you look at the Yukon itself as a member of the Arctic Council and the Northern Forum, we do collaborate with many foreign countries such as Russia, for example the Sakha Republic and Kamchatka; Japan; Norway; and the list go goes on. There is also the element of Aboriginal linkages and connections.

With respect to the Russians and other foreign countries, we need to ensure that, first, we establish exactly what Canada defines as its area of sovereign interest and apply security to that. However, from there, how does that relate to our overall position as a member of the international community?

The Chair: Thank you very much, premier. You have been terrific in answering our questions in such a focused way because you knew our time was short. All the best to you with the Northern Premiers' Forum; I hope that work continues.

Mr. Fentie: Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.

The Chair: The Honourable Dennis Fentie is the premier of Yukon, a job he has held since 2002.

With us now also by video conference is Charlie Lyall, President and CEO of the Kitikmeot Corporation. The corporation's mandate is to develop a strong economic base for that particular region of Nunavut by investing in business ventures, which will lead to employment, training, business and other opportunities for Inuit.

Mr. Lyall has been involved in some of the contracts that are in place with the Canadian military. He lives in Nunavut, I believe in Cambridge Bay, but he joins us today from Edmonton, Alberta.

We do appreciate you being here and giving us a northern voice as we continue to take testimony from a variety of witnesses. Do you have an opening statement, Mr. Lyall?

Charlie Lyall, President and CEO, Kitikmeot Corporation: Yes, I do. My name is Charlie Lyall, and I am President and CEO of the Kitikmeot Corporation of Nunavut. On behalf of President Charlie Evalik of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, KIA, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., NTI, we are honoured to present this submission to your esteemed Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

I am one of the 33,000 Inuit who live in Canada's Arctic region. Inuit represent a vital part of the Canadian northern heritage, one that has been kindly acknowledged by the Prime Minister and his government.

On our part, Inuit recognize that we are the most visible and important component of a true sovereign Canadian presence in the North. In short, Inuit are and have been living on the front lines of Canadian sovereign, commercial and defence interests in the Arctic since long before Confederation.

Many Inuit consider that Canadians may perhaps under-appreciate the supportive role that the Canadian military have played in transforming our North. It is no coincidence that many communities in Nunavut, such as Cambridge Bay, are co-located with North warning stations.

Inuit are regular and positive contributors to Canada's national defence. For 60 years, the Canadian Rangers have served as the eyes and ears of the Canadian Forces throughout the North. The rangers are a flexible, inexpensive and culturally inclusive way for Canada to show the flag in the North in a relationship that has been forged over half a century. The rangers also encourage local leadership and capacity building in our community.

The Canadian military has also been an important client and partner to Inuit businesses. DND projects in Nunavut have provided key opportunities for northerners to prove their worth both as employees and business owners. For Inuit, an active military presence in the Arctic is vital and provides strong partnerships for its major projects. Two such projects highlight this point as examples of when Inuit and DND have worked together as partners.

First, I will mention the DEW line — Distant Early Warning — cleanup. These radar stations were a proud symbol of Canadian sovereignty and stewardship during their operational and decommissioning phases. NTI and DND successfully negotiated an economic benefit agreement in 2001 for the DEW line cleanup that had provisions for minimum Inuit content for employment and contracting, along with Inuit participation plans.

These resulted in training, employment and contracting for Inuit and our firms. It also allowed Inuit to develop their capacity for northern contract work and to learn skills in site remediation and logistics for local construction. In addition, it provided Inuit with important lessons used today in our negotiations with mining companies.

The second example is the North Warning System, NWS, operation and maintenance done through the Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics Corporation's — PAIL — partnership with ATCO Structures & Logistics Ltd. through the Nasittuq Corporation joint venture.

PAIL is an umbrella group for regional Inuit development corporations that represent the four Inuit land claim settlement areas. The Nasittuq Corporation has operated and maintained a North Warning System since 1995, and through PAIL's equity position, the corporation has returned many benefits to Inuit communities.

What about the future? Prime Minister Harper has called attention to the potential of the North, and in doing so he has touched our hearts and inspired Inuit who are willing and prepared to meet the challenges of northern development and to work as meaningful partners within Canada.

For instance, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association has pioneered the successful development of my Kitikmeot Corporation, KC, and its group of companies. We are now involved in significant northern construction and operation opportunities. We think that Inuit are now well positioned to participate in highly prospective gold, diamond and other mining projects in the Kitikmeot region and elsewhere. These early stage projects have the potential to become major contributors not just to the economic development of Nunavut but to Canada as a whole.

In addition to the KC group of companies, with the assistance and financial support of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada — the INAC Major Resources and Energy Development Program, MRED — and more recently CanNor, NTI and the Government of Nunavut, the KIA has pioneered the concept of the Nunavut Resources Corporation, better known as NRC. It is designed to attain an equity interest in major northern infrastructure, including a possible partial ownership in major projects.

These steps represent a new wave of sophisticated Inuit enterprises, one that may eventually allow Inuit to better control development on their lands and to attract southern co-investment capital for infrastructure and project development.

NRC is a sign that Inuit are reaching out to the southern investment community to work with us as financial partners to accelerate northern development opportunities. DND can continue to play a vital role in the fiscal and corporate development process for Inuit. Large commercial airstrips that we construct in Nunavut, for instance, can provide alternate landing and maintenance capabilities for commercial and military operations; so, too, for roads, docks and ports. This is a case whereby Canadians strategic and sovereignty interests overlap with the aspirations of local Inuit to better develop and control our lands.

Inuit consider that the lack of basic infrastructure, combined with long-standing limitations of access to investment capital, to be the most significant barriers to northern development. Canada could play a major role in advancing its sovereign interests and the economic interests of Inuit by accelerating military infrastructure projects in the North. These should be considered as national investments, not just to secure sovereignty claims but to secure future economic returns with benefits to Nunavut and all of Canada.

Inuit are aware that if we are to succeed in the economic advancement of Nunavut, we must support and develop a range of tools, such as our economic development corporations and new vehicles such as the NRC, to encourage investment for needed infrastructure. By working together as equal partners with DND, private developers, resource corporations and the southern investment community we can make a difference, not just for Nunavut but for all of Canada.

We thank you for your interest in Nunavut and listening to us to better understand our opportunities and aspirations. We look forward to taking our place proudly with all Canadians as we achieve interlinked brighter futures for all our people.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Lyall. That was a good presentation.

When you talk to southern investors and you are looking for partners and cooperation there, do you make the argument about sovereignty or security, or is it a straight business deal?

Mr. Lyall: When I talk to southern financial institutions and others, I like to include that sovereignty is a part of the puzzle and part of the solution.

Senator Dallaire: Do you believe the rangers could be expanded more significantly to include an ability to monitor on water areas, by providing them with small crafts, such as skiffs and so on, to fill that gap in the North?

Mr. Lyall: I honestly believe that would be the case, yes. Currently, most of the exercises and patrols are carried out during the winter. There is the big event that happens every year in Eastern Arctic, but I believe that it should include not just the Eastern Arctic but Nunavut as a whole.

Senator Dallaire: With the summer period being the most vulnerable to potential spills and so on, either putting the rangers on board the Canadian Coast Guard, CCG, ships or providing them with boats that are significant enough that they can monitor the area would be an option for their employment, would it not?

Mr. Lyall: Yes, it would be. I can think of two examples, one of which was when we had that person show up in Grise Fiord in a little 18-foot boat. I cannot even remember what country he was from; but he showed up, and had the Rangers been able to go out on the ocean, maybe he would have been prevented from coming into the country illegally.

Senator Dallaire: There was recently a decision to turn a potential national park into a zone that now permits prospectors to go in. An Aboriginal band has protested that because it apparently came as a surprise. It is a plateau, and I forget the name.

Are you familiar with that, and is that creating frictions up there by operating that way?

Mr. Lyall: I am not aware of the project you are talking about, sir. I do not know if that is in Nunavut.

Senator Dallaire: Thank you.

The Chair: I think it is in a different region.

Senator Patterson: I am very pleased to welcome Mr. Lyall to our committee. I would like to ask him about the potential for mineral resource development in Nunavut, particularly in the Kitikmeot region, which is one of three regions in Nunavut, as members know.

Could you talk a bit about the Bathurst Inlet Port and Road Project I know you have worked on for many years, and how infrastructure such as that road would help lever economic and mineral development and make it feasible?

Mr. Lyall: The Bathurst Inlet Port and Road Project, BIPR, which I have been working on for about 15 years, would open up the region for mining development. I can think of at least five projects it would support. It would support the mining industry and also the communities by lowering the cost of fuel, which is very high in the region, as many people probably know. We would do this by bringing bulk fuel from overseas into the port, and then dispense it from there to the different communities in the region.

The road would enable us to bring concentrate out from some of the lead and zinc possibilities to a common port and have it shipped overseas much more cheaply.

Senator Patterson: You have said that you consider mineral development to be a part of establishing sovereignty in the region. I would like to ask you about the NWS contract, which I know Inuit companies have been involved in for about six years, and about the DEW line cleanup, on which your Kitikmeot Corporation did extensive work.

Could you, first, give us an idea of how those contracts have allowed Inuit and businesses in your region to develop? How do they work, and what capacity did you get as a result of those contracts?

Mr. Lyall: I will tell you about the one that I am familiar with, which is the DEW line cleanup. Kitikmeot Corporation, was involved in that one. NTI, KIA and the Government of Canada were able to negotiate a minimum percentage of Inuit to be employed — minimum Inuit contracting. That enabled us to train Inuit in different aspects of the DEW line cleanup, such as enclose space cleanup and heavy equipment operating.

We did some very basic things, such as camp operations training, which enabled the Inuit to carry on the next year as the project continued. We were able to carry on with the same group of Inuit, and they gained a vast experience in jobs that they had never traditionally done before. They were just passed over previously. The result of the land claim agreement was that it has become a standard.

Senator Patterson: I believe that the PAIL contract, which maintains NWS sites across the North from the Beaufort Sea to Labrador, has been going for six years. I believe it is up for renewal now. I think Inuit participation in this contract, even training of Inuit as helicopter pilots, was driven by the procurement provisions of the land claim agreement you mentioned.

As we look ahead to the renewal of that contract and to other federal initiatives in the North, including a new training base in Resolute Bay, a naval fuelling facility in Nanisivik and even the High Arctic research centre in your region, do you see the federal government continuing to be sensitive to their procurement obligations under the Inuit land claims agreements — the preference that you spoke of that has led to such successes? Is the federal government still sensitive to their obligations in that regard as we look forward?

Mr. Lyall: I wish I could say yes. However, we had to fight very hard this last time around about the Inuit content in the actual contract of operating the NWS. We had a huge fight on our hands to ensure that the land claims agreements were adhered to.

I wish and I hope that we do not have to continually fight to ensure that the land claim agreement is adhered to in the future.

Senator Patterson: You talked about the Rangers being the eyes and ears of the North, and we know the traditional work they have done. The Government of Canada has expressed concern about our capacity to deal with oil spill cleanup in Arctic waters. SAR is also a concern to northern residents.

Can you see rangers with better training and maybe additional equipment playing a role in SAR or dealing with environmental issues such as pollution or oil spill cleanup?

Mr. Lyall: Yes, I see a huge part for the rangers to play. They know the land; they have survived on that land for thousands of years. If we did away with the rangers, I am afraid there would be many lives lost. As you say, with search and rescue, they know the land and the weather — at least they used to know the weather until climate change started happening. I would be very disappointed if there were a loss of the Canadian Rangers in the North.

Senator Patterson: I do not think there is any sentiment about that here. I am getting at whether you see an expanded role for the Rangers. It seems that you clearly see one. Thank you very much.

The Chair: Following up on Senator Patterson's point, how was the issue of quota, or preferential hiring, resolved with the land claims? You said you had a big fight on your hands and that you hope it does not work that way in the future. Have you resolved this in the current negotiations?

Mr. Lyall: I cannot tell you whether it is completely resolved. We had our political bodies involved; and in business, I am not so sure about that.

The Chair: You prefer not to have that.

Mr. Lyall: No.

The Chair: I cannot imagine why.

Senator Lang: I have a couple of questions on your observations about search and rescue. What are your thoughts about the prospects in the future of relocating the responsibility for search and rescue in the North to a location in the North, for example, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or Yukon?

Mr. Lyall: It would be nothing but advantageous for search and rescue to be situated in the North, especially when you consider the long flying time for an aircraft from Nova Scotia to Nunavut, especially in the winter when it is cold. Time is of the essence when doing search and rescue in the North. For people in Iqaluit or Rankin Inlet or Cambridge Bay, being able to search an area in a matter of hours instead of 24 hours would make a huge difference.

Senator Lang: I would like to move to another area. We are fortunate in Yukon to have a transportation system that was largely driven by the construction of the Alaska Highway during World War II. That highway system throughout our communities, except one, gives us goods and services delivered at more favourable costs and gives more access to anyone living in the small communities.

I want to hear your observations for the long term, in particular in Nunavut, on a potential highway transportation system. Given your location, would we have to look forever and a day to find coastal access for the summer months and minimal highway transportation to the communities?

Mr. Lyall: It would be nice to be able to drive from my hometown of Taloyoak, Nunavut, to Edmonton or to Yellowknife or even to Gjoa Haven on a highway. The cost of construction is the issue. Currently, I believe the cost of constructing an all-weather road is $1 million per kilometre, which is prohibitive. Many communities are on islands. For example, Cambridge Bay is on Victoria Island. What would we do in that case? Would we build a bridge? Would we build ice roads for the winter or have ferries? A good start would be a good runway and lighting infrastructure for aircraft.

The Chair: This is the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. We have been hearing from many people who live in the south about the reality of security issues facing the North. We have heard many different suggestions of security issues, such as the Russians with their increased interest and activity, human smuggling, terrorists coming across the border and climate change, to which you have referred. Given the full range of security issues, not narrowing it to more strictly defined ones, how would you rank the issues that face Nunavut at this time in terms of threats to security?

Mr. Lyall: I have never really thought about that question.

The Chair: You are a businessman.

Mr. Lyall: I am a businessman. I would think that there is cause for concern. As I mentioned earlier, a man came to Grise Fiord in an 18-foot Lund, and I believe a couple of gang members were arrested on Victoria Island after they came across the Northwest Passage. Yes, it is a concern, right down to people coming into the country illegally. Being an ex-policeman, I can see that it would not be a problem for drug smuggling to start in the North and work its way south. It is a concern.

The Chair: We have talked about the rangers, but what kind of other resources do you have to deal with such issues at the front end?

Mr. Lyall: I do not know that I want to guess or try to figure that out. It will take a lot of resources. I am afraid that just thinking about the drug issue will make it a major concern.

The Chair: Are you prepared or preparing for the climate change issues that you are seeing? Do you feel that the issue is understood by the business community as well as the political community?

Mr. Lyall: Yes. As a business person, I am concerned. I believe we could do much more than we are doing now. As I said, it is expensive to operate in the North.

The Chair: I appreciate those comments. I believe I speak for everyone here when I thank you for your insight into living in the North. When we hear figures like $1 million per kilometre to build a road, we begin to understand some of the issues you deal with. It is helpful for us to know.

We would, again, like to thank Charlie Lyall, President and CEO of Kitikmeot Corporation. Mr Lyall lives in Nunavut and appeared by video conference from Edmonton today.

The Chair: We will suspend and go in camera.

(The committee continued in camera.)